April 25, 2015
733 W 4th Ave
Anchorage, AK 99501
State Capitol, Rm 419
Juneau, AK 99801
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Senator Dan Sullivan,
Sen. Dan Sullivan
Senator Lisa Murkowski,
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Congressman Don Young,
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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for the thousands of emails and hundreds of calls I’ve received over the past few weeks. I appreciate hearing about what is important to you and have been responding as quickly as possible.
Why the Extended Session?
It’s all about priorities.
We all recognize these are tough financial times. I voted against the proposed budget because I believe it’s still too big, and spent on the wrong things. In fact, I proposed slashing another $760 million in unneeded corporate subsidies, bloated executive salaries, and even a slaughterhouse that we’re spending millions on. Talk about pork in the budget! You can read a recent editorial I wrote in the Alaska Dispatch News about the budget.
Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues voted down these cuts, and instead chose to cut education and Senior Benefits and to break the promises made in our Troopers, Correction Officers and other state employee contracts.
We are currently paying the oil industry $642 million more in tax credits than we receive in production taxes. We are paying an Outside refiner another $10 million per year for tax credits it never even asked for. These are the wrong priorities, in my opinion. We should not be prioritizing Outside oil companies over our kids, multinational refiners over our seniors, a slaughterhouse over hard working Alaskans.
So there we stand. This dispute is over corporate subsidies versus taking care of Alaskans. I’d much rather be back in Anchorage, but I’m willing to stay as long as necessary to fight for the things that you and I believe in. That’s what you hired me to do for you.
Student art from Begich Middle School is up in the Capitol this week
Cuts to Education
Last year, the Legislature made a promise to Alaska’s children, teachers and the future of our state by passing HB 278, a bill approving a much-needed increase to the education funding formula over the next three years. With this proposed budget, they are breaking that promise, and hundreds of teachers will be laid off and classroom sizes will grow if we let it stand.
Education is a top priority for me and we are Constitutionally required to adequately fund it. By gutting our education budget, we are not only breaking a promise, but failing to meet our Constitutional mandate. I am also concerned about the process by which the Senate Finance Committee cut happened. The committee did not alert the public that this cut would occur and gave no opportunity for public testimony. This is disrespectful to the public process.
Click HERE to watch my floor speech about these cuts and the disregard of the process.
This is not over yet. I am continuing to fight to restore education funding, and urge you to keep contacting my fellow legislators. The more Alaskans speak out and raise awareness on the issue, the more legislators will come to understand the importance of investing in our children.
Students in Juneau came out to rally in support of education & to oppose the devastating cuts to public schools
Let’s put politics aside for a minute.
If I told you we had a chance to pump $150 million into our economy every year for the next 5 years, create 4,000 jobs, save the state an additional $570 million and insure 40,000 Alaskans – most Alaskans would think we should do it, right? That is exactly what Medicaid expansion does. And that’s why Alaskans by a 2-1 margin support expanding Medicaid and why the Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Federation of Natives, faith groups and numerous other Alaskan organizations support it.
If a bill expanding Medicaid were to go to a vote of the full Legislature, it also looks like it would pass. We’ve had 26 hearings on this in the Legislature. It’s time for us to vote on this!
AFACT members came down to Juneau to support Medicaid Expansion
Alaska has among the highest rate of child sexual abuse in the nation. The Office of Children’s Services confirmed nearly 300 allegations in March alone with 1,592 allegations of abuse since the start of the current school year.
House Bill 44, known by many as “Erin’s Law,” is the life work of child sex abuse survivor Erin Merryn. Erin’s Law has been implemented in 21 states and has proven to be an effective tool to combat child sexual abuse by requiring public school districts to teach age-appropriate prevention curriculum.
I support this bill and believe it should be passed without delay. After a year of refusal by the Republican House Majority to move this legislation, HB 44 was finally scheduled for a vote on the House floor and passed with bi-partisan support on April 18th. I am extremely disappointed that HB 44 has not received a hearing in the Senate, let alone get to a vote on the Senate floor. This is so important that I even proposed an amendment that would incorporate this protection in a recent “Children’s Day” resolution.
Alaska needs a system to ensure that our children are safe from sexual abuse and know how to protect themselves. We need Erin’s Law now.
Thank you to my staff Brooke Ivy, Kalyssa Maile & Sarah Evans for their hard work this session!
Honoring our Contracts
Some in the legislature are attempting to renege on contracted salary increases for state workers. In 2013, the Parnell Administration negotiated with unions representing state and university employees to schedule pay increases consistent with cost-of-living allowances. Non-union state workers were also scheduled to receive a 1% cost-of-living increase in 2013 and 2014, with a final 2.5% increase this July 1st.
Again, on the final day of budget hearings and only after public testimony had closed, Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee cut these salary increases. Without any public notice, they broke our State’s promise to tens of thousands of public servants.
During the floor debate on the operating budget, I supported multiple amendments to honor these contracts, while offsetting the cost through other reductions. The State is facing a budget crisis, but this is about misguided priorities. Alaskans are our most valuable resource and we should not be balancing the budget on their backs. We must keep the promise made to our workers.
You are also always welcome to contact me directly. I am here to represent you!
Alaska State Senator
District H - Anchorage